WEEKEND ROUND-UP: Events And Match-Ups To Watch Around The Nation

WEEKEND ROUND-UP: Events And Match-Ups To Watch Around The Nation

NEW ORLEANS — This is one weekend in NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field where it’s not about the meets as a whole, rather the match-ups between athletes at said meets.

With that in mind, we, at the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA), scoured the nation and found eight of those match-ups that you should keep an eye on as this weekend transpires. They’re listed in chronological order so they’re easier to parse through and digest.

New Mexico Collegiate Classic: Men’s High Jump

Bradley Adkins (Texas Tech) vs. Randall Cunningham (Southern California)
FINALS: Friday, 9 p.m. ET (7 p.m. MT)

As both the NCAA indoor and outdoor national runner-up in the high jump, Bradley Adkins is the logical successor to ascend to the void left atop the NCAA by the graduation of his former teammate JaCorian Duffield.

But ascent is the name of the game in the high jump, and no one in 2016 has ascended higher than Southern California sophomore Randall Cunningham. The son of the former NFL quarterback by the same name has already cleared 2.26m (7-5) as of two weeks ago, putting Adkins and the rest of the country on notice.

Adkins, meanwhile, is working his way up after clearing a season’s best 2.18m (7-1¾) just last weekend. He went as high as 2.29m (7-6) a year ago at NCAAs.

Meyo Invitational: Women’s Shot Put

Raven Saunders (Ole Miss) vs. The Record Book
FINALS: Saturday, 11:30 a.m. ET (10:30 a.m. CT)

Right now in the world of collegiate shot put, there’s Ole Miss’ Raven Saunders and there’s everybody else.

Each week it seems as if Saunders out does herself, which in turn puts more distance between her and the competition.

This past weekend at Vanderbilt, Saunders heaved the shot 18.98m (62-3.25). Saunders is now No. 3 on the all-time collegiate performers list and No. 5 on the all-time throws chart.

So far this season Saunders has eight throws of more than 18 meters. No one else in the NCAA has touched that barrier yet in 2016.

If Saunders adds .02m to her personal best, she’d become just the third collegian in history to eclipse 19 meters.

Meyo Invitational: Women’s 60 Hurdles

Cindy Ofili (Michigan) vs. Devynne Charlton (Purdue)
FINAL: Saturday, 2 p.m. ET
SEMIFINALS: Saturday, 10:35a.m. ET
PRELIMS: Friday, 4:30 p.m. ET

One is a name track & field fans know: Cindy Ofili, last year’s outdoor 100-meter hurdles runner-up and Bowerman Watch List contender. She’s the collegiate leader this year at 8.04 after just one hurdles competition – a new PR for her. A year ago, she ran her season-best 8.10 at this same meet to finish runner-up only to sister and reigning world indoor bronze medalist Tiffany Porter.

Devynne Charlton, on the other hand, is in the midst of her rise to the top. Entering the season with an 8.17 career-best – also from this Meyo Invitational a year ago – she has already smashed that at 8.11 for the No. 3 time among collegians this year. After failing to advance to the NCAA final a year ago indoors, she finished seventh outdoors in the 100 hurdles and has kept that momentum going this season.

New Mexico Collegiate Classic: Women’s 60

Mikiah Brisco & Aleia Hobbs (LSU) vs. Ky Westbrook & Deanna Hill & Alexis Faulknor (Southern California)
FINAL: Saturday, 4:05 p.m. ET (2:05 p.m. MT)
SEMIFINALS: Saturday, 1:30 p.m. ET (11:30 a.m. MT)
PRELIMS: Friday, 7 p.m. ET (5 p.m. MT)

The future is now in women’s collegiate sprinting. Five of the top fifteen women in the USTFCCCA Individual Rankings over 60 meters are in the field in Albuquerque this weekend, and four of them are only sophomores.

No. 3 Ky Westbrook of Southern California, last year’s NCAA indoor runner-up, is making her season debut against, most notably, fifth-place finisher No. 5 Mikiah Brisco of LSU. They’ll be joined by their respective teammates No. 7 Alexis Faulknor (the lone senior of the group) and No. 8 Deanna Hill of USC, and the 2016 debut of No. 14 Aleia Hobbs for LSU.

Meyo Invitational: Women’s 3000

Erin Finn (Michigan) vs. Molly Seidel (Notre Dame)
FINALS: Saturday, 3:10 p.m. ET

Ever since Notre Dame’s Molly Seidel realized her potential at last year’s NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, her career has trended upward.

It was in Eugene, Oregon where Seidel won the 10,000-meter title and once she got that taste of victory, she wanted more.

Seidel carried the momentum over into cross country and placed no worse than third in the five meets in which she competed. In the final three of her collegiate career (ACC Championships, NCAA Great Lakes Regional and NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships) — all championship meets, mind you — Seidel won.

Now we’ll see if Seidel can continue her tremendous year indoors. Seidel makes her season debut Saturday afternoon in the 3000 at the Notre Dame Meyo Invitational.

Joining Seidel on the starting line will be Michigan’s Erin Finn and Michigan State’s Alexis Wiersma from the collegiate ranks and Nicole Bush and Nicole Sifuentes from the professional ranks, among others.

Finn and Seidel tangoed twice on the course this fall with Seidel getting the better of Finn each time. Could it be different on the track?

Last month Finn made her season debut in the 3000 at the Hillsdale Winter Opener and won in 9:13.41. It was also the first time since 2014 that Finn competed in an indoor meet.

Seidel ran the 3000 twice as a junior indoors with her best time coming at the ACC Indoor Track & Field Championships (9:10.63). This will likely be a rust-buster for her as she prepares to compete in more 5000-meter races from here on out.

Charlie Thomas Invitational: Men’s 60

Ronnie Baker (TCU) vs. Cameron Burrell (UH) vs. Lashon Collins (UH) vs. Tevin Hester (Clemson)
FINAL: Saturday, 4:26 p.m. ET (3:26 p.m. CT)
PRELIMS: Saturday, 1:40 p.m. ET (12:40 p.m. CT)

One look at the USTFCCCA Individual Rankings shows why you should be excited about this race.

Coming into the meet, Ronnie Baker, Cameron Burrell, Lashon Collins and Tevin Hester are ranked No. 1, No. 4, No. 14 and No. 5, respectively, in the event. Should they all make the final, scheduled for 3:26 p.m. CT on Saturday afternoon, that adds up to a lot of firepower.

If you’re ranking by times they turned in this season, Burrell would be No. 1 (6.55), Baker is second (6.60), Hester is third (6.63) and Collins is fourth (6.64).

Burrell won’t be scared of the moment as he’s faced some tough competition this season so far. At the Rod McCravy Memorial on Jan. 23, Burrell went up against Collins, professional Trayvon Bromell and Florida’s Arman Hall. Burrell took second in that race behind Bromell.

Don’t count out Baker, a member of The Bowerman Men’s Watch List, either. Baker, who won this event at NCAAs last year, has been progressively faster each week and might be hitting his stride.

We don’t know who is going to win, but we do know one thing: It’s going to be fast.

Frank Sevigne Husker Invitational: Men’s 200

Bryce Robinson (Tulsa) vs. Markesh Woodson (Missouri) vs. Zack Bilderback/Senoj-Jay Givans (Texas)
FINALS: Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET (3:35 p.m. CT)

One of the most fun aspects of track & field is the opportunity for cross-event match-ups, and that’s exactly what the Special Invite session of the men’s 200 at Nebraska provides. Though one of the drawbacks of the indoor 200 meter race is that we don’t often get the best head-to-head match-ups between groups of athletes, we still get to see a game of “one-up”smanship across sections.

That’s what we’ll have Saturday when Markesh Woodson of Missouri (No. 8 60 meters) squares off with Texas’ Zack Bilderback (No. 6 400 meters) in the second section, followed by Texas’ Aldrich Bailey, Jr. (No. 3 200 meters; No. 7 400 meters) in the next section, then Texas’ Senoj-Jay Givans (No. 7 60 meters), and then Tulsa’s Bryce Robinson (No. 6 200 meters; No. 9 60 meters) in the final race.

Charlie Thomas Invitational: Men’s 800

Donavan Brazier (Texas A&M) vs. Jonah Koech (UTEP)
FINALS: Saturday, 4:37 p.m. ET (3:37 p.m. CT)

Mid-distance fans are in for a treat as we get a showdown between two of the most heavily hyped newcomers to the NCAA scene. In one corner you have the A&M frosh Donavan Brazier, who set the T&F internet on fire with a 1:45.95 debut last month, moving him to No. 5 on the all-time collegiate list.

In the other, you have UTEP frosh Jonah Koech, who will be making his NCAA 800-meter debut after finishing 11th at the NCAA Cross Country Championships this past November. Last February, while still in Kenya, he ran a hand-timed 1:46.8 at more than 5,300 feet altitude in Nairobi. He’s run a mile in 4:05 this year at nearly 5,000 feet of altitude, and is coached by current collegiate record holder Paul Ereng.

Though both of these men are newcomers to the NCAA system, make no mistake, they are two favorites to win an NCAA title. This is one race you don’t want to miss.

More To Watch

  • Penn State Sykes & Sabock Challenge Cup: Brannon Kidder has been on fire of late. First, he broke the 1000-meter collegiate record. Then he outdueled Clayton Murphy, Dylan Capwell, Ryan Manahan and others in the year’s best race over 800 meters and anchored the No. 4 DMR team in collegiate history. Now he’s got options this weekend: he’s entered both at 600 and 800 meters. Either way he goes or if he does both, it’ll be fun to see what he does next. If he opts for the 600, he’s currently No. 9 on the all-time collegiate performers list at 1:16.98, just over a second away from Dmitrijs Milkevics’ 2005 record of 1:15.60. Will he go for another collegiate record?
  • Armory Invitational: Sarah Disanza – the 2014 NCAA XC runner-up from Wisconsin who out of nowhere took the distance running world by storm and then was sidelined by injury just as quickly – is scheduled to compete for the first time since the 2015 NCAA Indoor Championships in the Invitational 3000-meter race. If she runs, she’ll contend against the likes of recent collegiate standouts Emma Bates, Sheila Reid, Marielle Hall, and Jordan Hasay.

    Also, keep an eye on the men’s 800 meter run invitational featuring Monmouth’s Dylan Capwell – last year’s NCAA Indoor runner-up – and outdoor All-American Collins Kibet of Arizona. They’ll duel with the resurgent pro Robby Andrews.

  • Frank Sevigne Husker Invitational: Defending indoor 400-meter champ Courtney Okolo of Texas is slated to make her season debut in her signature event, alongside the Texas 400-meter debut of NJCAA standout Chrisann Gordon.
  • Virginia Tech Doc Hale Elite: Defending outdoor triple jump champ Keturah Orji of Georgia looks to extend her triple jump national lead and make a bid for the 14-meter barrier indoors.